Deputy Prosecutor Bensouda Receives World Peace Through Law Award, Lectures on Role of ICC

With 118 State Parties, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an important legal institution to prosecute criminals and prevent massive violence worldwide. Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently discussed the scope of the Court and its increasing global prominence. Her lecture was sponsored by the law school’s Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute and co-sponsored by the Public Interest Law and Policy Speakers Series. 

During her three-day visit to the law school, the Harris Institute also honored Bensouda with the 2011 World Peace Through Law Award. The award is given to individuals who considerably advance the rule of law and, thereby, contribute to world peace. 

A native of the Republic of the Gambia, Bensouda was elected to her current position in 2004. She previously worked as a legal adviser and trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, rising to the position of senior legal adviser and head of the Legal Advisory Unit.

“Deputy Prosecutor Bensouda has dedicated her career to the pursuit of justice and the rule of law,” says Leila N. Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and Harris Institute director. “This award acknowledges her extraordinary work in the field of international criminal justice and her many achievements as an ardent champion of human rights.”

In her lecture, Bensouda noted that the ICC, established in 1998, offers “a new instrument of peace, creating global governance without a global government, but with international law and courts.” 

Bensouda continued: “The Court was created as a matter of realism, as a form of protection; that is the main point. Accountability and the rule of law provide a framework to protect individuals and nations from massive atrocities and to manage conflicts.”

The legal framework consolidates a new trend in the prosecution of international crime, she said. Bensouda noted that there will be “no more impunity for alleged perpetrators of massive crimes. No more golden exiles for the likes of Idi Amin Dada or General Pinochet.”

With the presence of the Court, leaders using massive violence to either attain or to hold power will be held accountable, Bensouda said. “States have accepted that should they fail to prosecute, the International Criminal Court could decide to step in.”

The ICC has jurisdiction only in cases referred to the Court by State Parties, the United Nations Security Council, or in cases authorized by the Pre-Trial Chamber and initiated by the ICC Prosecutor. The ICC cannot conduct investigations in non-member countries without state authorization. 

In assessing whether particular crimes committed fall within the jurisdiction of the court, Bensouda said, cases are weighed against “a threshold of gravity.” Genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity top the scale.

Investigations are under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Uganda; Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Cote d’Ivoire; and Libya, Bensouda said. In Libya, the Office of the Prosecutor initiated an investigation this year, following referral by a U.N. Security Council resolution that was adopted unanimously. 

“The adoption of this resolution by consensus was a unique moment, showing how the ICC now is part of the international landscape,” Bensouda said.

Colombia offers another example of growing international respect for the ICC, she said. The prospect of the ICC attaining jurisdiction there was cited as a reason for lawmakers and politicians to insure policy decisions result in just laws.

But the ICC has some difficult barriers to overcome, she said. “Arrest of the fugitives wanted by the ICC remains the biggest test for the international community,” Bensouda said. “It requires the collaborative efforts and the consistent approach of states and international organizations.”

The ICC will prosecute relatively few cases, but each case will have an “exponential impact” in the world, Bensouda said.

“A single Court ruling affects the behavior of governments and political leaders, and armies all over the world are adjusting their operational standards,” she said. “The world increasingly, I believe, is understanding the role of the Court.”

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By Janet Edwards